Thursday, February 26, 2009

Books Sales News: Jandy Nelson

I had to share this bit of news about a VCFA alum, from Publisher's Weekly Children's Bookshelf:

"Alisha Niehaus at Dial Books for Young Readers bought Jandy Nelson’s YA debut, The Sky Is Everywhere, at auction. The novel tells the story of Lennie, a 17-year-old bookworm and band geek who has spent her life in her older sister Bailey’s shadow; when Bailey dies suddenly, Lennie finds herself in the middle of a love triangle with Bailey’s boyfriend and the new boy in town. Tentative pub date is spring 2010; Nelson is a literary agent at Manus & Associates. Emily van Beek at Pippin Properties sold North American rights in a two-book deal."

Congratulations, Jandy!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Book Launch: My Life In Pink and Green

This week I'm happy to present an interview with author Lisa Greenwald, whose book MY LIFE IN PINK AND GREEN debuts this coming weekend.

Congratulations on the publication of your novel, MY LIFE IN PINK AND GREEN. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?
My grandfather was a pharmacist and my mom spent many school vacations and weekends working at family pharmacies. I loved hearing their stories. Also walking around drug stores and pharmacies is really fun for me! I love looking at the products, especially at pharmacies that have special gift and nick-nack sections.

You deal with an important contemporary issue. Was it challenging for you to address this in the context of the story?
It was a little bit challenging in that I wanted it to be authentic and I wanted it to be a part of the story without overpowering the whole story. At the heart of it, MY LIFE IN PINK & GREEN is about a girl, her family, her friends, her crush, etc. Whenever a book idea comes to me, it starts with the character and grows from there. So the contemporary issues are definitely a part of the story but I didn't want them to be the story.

How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?
I pretty much started writing for children/teens when I entered the MFA program in writing for children in the fall of 2004. Before that I was writing but kept thinking that it was for adults, even though I was always drawn to teen characters and problems. Before MY LIFE IN PINK & GREEN, I wrote drafts of two other teen novels. One I wrote in graduate school and I doubt it will ever see the light of day. It's about two girls that are best friends, but it's a lopsided friendship because one of the girls is taking care of the other girl, while that girl is taking it for granted. After that I wrote many drafts of a book about Jewish summer camp and I'm still working on it! I hope that one does see the light of day at some point.

Can you describe your path to the publication of MY LIFE IN PINK AND GREEN?
MY LIFE IN PINK & GREEN was a very collaborative effort between my agent Alyssa Eisner Henkin (who is fabulous!) and me. We discussed the story and worked on what plot points to bring out, what characters to keep, etc. She tweaked outlines and drafts before we ever sent it to editors and then when we did send it out, we got positive responses! After that it found a home at Amulet Books with a wonderful editor named Maggie Lehrman and we worked on it together as well.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
My advice is to write what is meaningful to you. Write what you want to write and the passion and heart of your story will come through to the page. Also, try as hard as you can to be patient and to stay hopeful and positive..

Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?
I would love to keep writing as a career. I hope that can happen! Even though writing can be difficult, I never get bored of it. I'm always excited to write. I'm very happy to live in Brooklyn with my wonderful husband and I feel really lucky about where I am in life. Eventually I hope to have children and a dog!

Do you have any new writing ventures underway?
I'm working on that camp book that I mentioned before. I'm also trying an "adult" story out. The main character is 22 so that's why it's "adult." I love writing for tweens and teens but this character just came to me and I have to give her a chance. I'm also working on a teen series that I hope to sell eventually but it's a secret for now.

Do you have a website where readers can learn more about MY LIFE IN PINK AND GREEN?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Monday, February 16, 2009

Book Launch: Bull Rider

Jacket design and photo composition by Krista Vossen

I have the pleasure of announcing another book launch from my friends in the 2k9 debut authors' group. I've interviewed the author of BULL RIDER, Suzanne Morgan Williams, and here's what she had to say:

Congratulations on the publication of your novel, BULL RIDER. It is a true vignette of the American West. How did you come up with the story?
I live in Nevada and when a particular editor was speaking at Nevada SCBWI, I ended up telling her lots of stories about the history, the land, cowboys, and Indians. She asked me for a series proposal – set in Nevada about cowboys. The story changed significantly over time, but it started with me outlining the characters in the O’Mara family. I knew I was going to write a book about a boy, Cam O’Mara, who wanted to be a bull rider. When I created his extended family, I gave him a grandfather who had been a champion bull rider and an older brother who was a bull rider too. Where was that brother now? In the Marines. That was a pretty dangerous place to be. The story evolved from that point.

One major subplot is the effect of the war in Iraq on Cam’s family and the injuries to his brother. Is this a familiar issue for you?
Thankfully, I don’t have any family members who have been injured in Iraq. I do have a son-in-law who is in the Navy and we have a family friend who served in Iraq for a year. I have a number of friends with loved ones who have served there too. I am old enough though, to have watched many people who are close to me suffer diminished capacities due to various causes – to be familiar with their reactions and mine to that scenario. And our oldest daughter had severe chronic asthma. I was very aware that her illness, and the care it required, affected our other children as well. You don’t live in a family without touching each other’s lives.

Did you face any challenges in the writing of this book?
I was really uncomfortable with getting into the details of Ben’s injuries, with talking to people about that subject and facing the uglier aspects of the war. At first I hardly mentioned the war and Ben was sort of off stage, but it became apparent that this was a story of the brothers and that the Iraq War and the toll it takes needed to be addressed. That was the story I was meant to tell, so I did my research and I told it.

How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?
My first nonfiction book, Made in China; Ideas and Inventions from Ancient China, was published in 1997. I have ten published and one upcoming nonfiction books for teens and children. BULL RIDER is my first novel and I believe my background in nonfiction really helped me to dig deep to research the book and ground it in facts.

Can you describe your path to the publication of BULL RIDER?
Oh, it was twisted. Bull Rider started out as the first in a series for seven or eight year olds. It was more of a school/pal story about Cam at age twelve who wanted to take up bull riding. Ben was totally off stage, simply having been “injured” in an accident while in the Marines. That version came very close to being published but in the end it didn’t happen and I knew I had to make BULL RIDER a bigger stand alone book before I sent it out again. I put the manuscript away for about eight months.
Then my friend, Ellen Hopkins, called and said the pro bull riders were coming to Reno and she could get me an interview with some of them. We went to the bull riding and attended the “after party” where I interviewed bull riders and two photographers about their experiences – which was quite something considering the volume of the music and the flowing of the drinks. One of the photographers offered me a “back stage” tour the next day and I got to see the chutes, tack room, talk to the hands up close. I watched them bring the bulls in for the day’s rides – including one bull called “Ugly.” After that weekend, I knew I had a story and it was an older one.
I rewrote the book as a YA novel – Cam aged sixteen. Ben became a major character, his injury got serious and happened in Iraq, and Ben had a girl friend. Once there was editorial interest we decided the book would work best as middle grade and I wrote round three – Cam aged fourteen and the story of Cam and Ben’s relationship front and center. It took a while, but I think the story unfolded with the right relationships at the right level.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
My best advice is to read and to listen. Read lots of books. Go to critique groups and classes and listen to what is shared – both about your work and about the work of others. Really listening is hard sometimes. Put your own reactions on hold and just absorb what others have to teach you. Oh, and write. You won’t become a writer if you don’t actually sit down and put in the hours writing.

Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?
I’m always trying to balance this. My writing is very important to me, so is my family and my writing friends. I want to write more novels, travel, and be able to spend time with the people I love. I definitely want to introduce BULL RIDER to lots of readers, so will be traveling some to do presentations and signings. I have pets and like to garden so I like sticking around home too. It’s a pretty good life.

Do you have any new writing ventures underway?
Always. I’ll keep you posted.

For more information, you can visit Suzanne at

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I Heart Booksellers!

Just a Valentine's Heart for all

Thank you for all you do for writers everywhere.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Another Launch!

Cynthia Leitich Smith's newest book, Eternal, debuted today!

Readers who loved the wry humor mixed with dark fantasy of Tantalize have been salivating (pun completely intended), waiting for this sequel-plus.

Check out Cynsations, Leitich Smith's blog (at right), for more details.

Friday, February 6, 2009


Just a couple of things I wanted to mention about the SCBWI meeting in New York City last weekend (other than the freezing weather...).

First, I was pleasantly surprised by the upbeat mood of most of the editors I heard there. Yes, the industry (like all things) is suffering in this economic climate, but good books are still being bought and published. Children's books, in particular, have a solid niche. So keep writing, and please keep buying - there are lots of great books out there (as you can see from the interviews below).

The second thing is that SCBWI has just begun production of a series of videos with masters in the field of children's books. The first two feature Richard Peck (On Writing the Novel) and Tomie dePaola (on Creating the Picture Book). My experience with this type of video is that it can be extremely useful. I'll be viewing them soon myself. I do know that both men are brilliant and entertaining, and true masters of the craft.

For more information on these videos and on SCBWI, visit

Look for more upcoming interviews here with debut authors, too!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

2k9 Superstar Books

Today is launch day for the second 2k9 debut novel - The Year The Swallows Came Early, by Kathryn Fitzmaurice - and already these books are garnering rave reviews from a variety of sources. Check out the 2k9 blog for details:

I'm really proud of these folks. I got to know a few last week in New York at the SCBWI national conference, and they are wonderful (fun!) people as well as great writers. I think their books, singularly and collectively, are headed for big things. I'll be blogging a bit more on the conference, as well as upcoming book launches, in the next week.